A Very Rough Draft of Jim Harstad’s Memoir, ON HE RODE — Chapter Fifty

ON HE RODE — Chapter Fifty

Lucky for us, there is a rear exit leading directly to the parking lot. “You drive,” I tell Mary. “This is your kuleana, your territory.”

“What? Me and losers and crazy people? If you want my advice as an almost-certified professional, just stay away from all of it. You’ll be a lot happier.“

“Too late for that. I’m a teacher, remember? A school teacher? When was the last time you taught in a public school?”

“Does it have to be a public school?”

“Preferably.  The reward for success can be greater because you are not expected to succeed. And if you don’t succeed — as most don’t — you’re just another underpaid loser pretending your life away.” I sing the end of that sentence to the tune of the Everlys’ “Dream”.

“Your point being?”

“I thought you’d help me.”

“To not see it that way?”

“If that would help. I’d like marijuana, for starters.”

“Not here. Not now.”

“When they make it legal?”

“If . . . “

“When, not if. Us, not they.”

“If it becomes legal there’ll be much scarier things to worry about — real drugs, really bad germs, serious craziness on a huge scale.”

“So weed is not a problem.”

“For me it is because it’s illegal. My status as a public health professional could be compromised if I were a known user. So could yours, Mr. Public School Teacher.”

“Actually, I don’t even think of myself as a school teacher.”

“Even so, what are you? What do you do? Just biding your time?”

“Well, yeah, ‘cause that’s the kinda guy I’m.”

“Couldn’t too much biding get to be a problem?”

“Too much biding, too little living. But what if I took a summer workshop in windmill chasing ala Miguel Cervantes at Bumfuck U.? Intellectual stimulation, professional enhancement, salary enhancement, collegial socialization — my God, I could be a living, breathing professional educator. Instead, I’m balding, biding, wasting my time with you. In other words, really living.”

“I guess I’m flattered. Should I be? Do you even know what you’re saying?”

“Why should you be flattered? If it weren’t you, it’d be someone else, right?”

“Isn’t it pretty for you to think so?”

“So far it has been.”

“Can it last?”

“So far it has.”

“What is ‘it’?”

“‘It’ is whatever charismatic ratiocination my subconscious uses to ensconce your docile clientele and lure them toward me one step at a time. I call it the God Particle.”

“Call it what you want, Mr. English Teacher, the world is looking for a savior. It really is. Pot? Potheads? You? Me?”

“Do you believe in God?”


“Really? Why?”

“Let’s save it for over wine.”

“Or pot?”

“Excuse me but I happen to be a nearly accredited professional. Not a pothead. You?””

“Professional educator. Potheadus Interruptus, if you please.”


“Your part will be later, with wine. My part will be now. The reason I believe in God is that I grew up believing and my life was incredibly good. Then I decided to stop believing and my life turned to shit, almost overnight.”

“So that set you back to believing.”

“That would betray mental weakness, an inability to think rationally, to exercise my God-given — oops, I mean natural endowments — in a way compatible with living a happy, successful life.”

“But then . . .?”

“Then, . . . maybe over wine?”

Who knows what Mateus moment we have in mind with a phrase like “over wine”?

It is midsummer 1968, and the world has gone berserk again. “They” got Martine Luther King, Jr. on April 4 and Bobby on June 5. Next? Whether “over wine” is ironic or promissory, it winds up not happening. Things get in the way, as things will. Now we’re headed south for a three-day weekend in New York City. So. They’ve got wine in New York, and a lot of other things, I hear.

And because I am an insane product of so nutty a world, I wonder if I might just happen to run into Robert Zimmerman just, you know, out on the street. “Hey Bob,” I’ll say, “Love your sound.” “Dollar a day, it’s worth,” he’ll reply. Or maybe — and even I know this is nuts — Holden Caulfield? “Hey Holden, “ I’ll say, “It’s summer.” “Yeah, I know,” he’ll say, “Ducks on the pond. Where else?”

So, Dear Reader, in case you wandered onto this page by accident and wonder whether to, you know, wander farther . . . all I can say is it’s a very rough draft of an almost paranormal adventure that took place in the summer of 1968.

This draft is so full of leaks, gaps, kinks, and fissures that it would sink like a rock without the generous flotation of Bamboo Ridge Press based primarily on my earnest assurance that the next draft will be a whole lot tighter, coherent, cohesive, professional, enlightening, and funny. A real barnburner. Actually, I can be a pretty decent rewriter. You’ll see. Thanks, BR.

So we’re couped-up (English teacher joke) in Mary’s Falcon, me driving so she can stay fresh for the Jewish wedding she will attend this evening. And we’re talking about how it’s really cool that we’re able to cruise on down to New York so casually, but if we, meaning people in general, keep expanding our use of the industrial stuff that makes life easier and “better”, won’t we like start compromising things that support all life, say clean air and water?

I remember class discussions a seventh grader focused on the reality that although our petroleum resources were enormous, we would run out eventually. Our two classroom concerns were how to make oil last for a good, long time and how to produce abundant energy when the oil runs out. There was no discussion about our abuse pf the environment. Nature could take care of itself. God made it that way.

And to you, Dear wandering, wondering Reader, I present this rough draft chapter fifty as a typical example of the kind of stuttering narrative I currently produce. I am not James Joyce. I do not expect you to learn a whole new way of reading to understand my whole new way of writing. Like any honestly aspiring journeyman, I expect to sweat out my best work over time. That means at least one more draft. But first I hope to produce ten or twelve more rough ones.

And, by the way, yes, I do have a 1968 road atlas, salvaged from the real-life journey. And yes I will certainly use it as an ongoing reference in all rewrites, where it should provide invaluable service once again. Hope the termites haven’t gotten to it like the stack of Saturday Reviews I was saving for no good reason. You know, English teachers.

Mahalo for reading!

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